This section notes, but does not discuss in any detail, the democratic and demographic weaknesses of the first referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in June ’16. This subject has been widely covered elsewhere and I include it here as an easily referenceable reminder.
The main points of concern are:
- As already noted extensively on this site, there was insufficient information available for the public to make a irrevocable informed choice.
- Depending on how you analyse the figures, only around one third of those eligible to vote actually voted for the option to Leave the EU. This is an extremely weak mandate for such a huge constitutional change. Wikipedia Referendum Results Analysis
- The young, those who have to live with this decision the longest, failed to turn out in huge numbers. I know full well that ‘that was their choice’, but I cannot respect a decision taken by those on whom it will have little impact, at the expense of those who will be profoundly affected by it. In EURef2, I believe everyone from 16 upwards should be able to vote – and responsible older voters should be talking to their children and grandchildren about their views. NB: 16-18 year olds in Scotland, who are normally allowed to vote in general elections, were excluded from the ballot.
- The substantial numbers of EU citizens living, working, contributing and paying tax in the UK were excluded from the ballot (unless they were Irish, Maltese or Cypriot). This is patently unfair – they have earned their ‘say’.
- Similarly the exclusion of UK citizens living overseas for extended periods is unfair. If they are UK citizens, then they deserve a ‘say’ in this important matter.
- There is suspicion of wrongdoing during the campaign – this is yet to be proved. However, illegal assistance to the Leave campaign by a foreign power is under investigation.
- Finally, the results of EURef1 were materially skewed by a protest vote against David Cameron’s hugely unpopular Tory government which was largely aligned to the Remain campaign. I am all for tactical and protest voting at the right time – but this was not that time.